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City planning discriminates against workers living in Manteca

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POSTED June 10, 2014 1:01 a.m.

The working thesis of the Manteca General Plan is simple. It’s all about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Read the state-mandated planning document designed to set perimeters for growth the next time you need a good laugh. It talks about lofty goals the city has adopted to improve air quality, conserve water, reduce ongoing maintenance costs and to provide affordable housing opportunities.

Most of it centers around reshaping residential subdivisions. And while some design enhancements such as more use of roundabouts, installing purple pipe for common area landscaping irrigation using recycled water, and bus turnouts are design elements of some subdivisions moving toward groundbreaking most new housing projects being advanced actually undermine the general plan.

A prime example is the 30-acre Monte Bello Estates before the Manteca Planning Commission tonight.

The general plan calls for a small portion to be medium density residential along Airport Way. This calls for smaller single family homes, townhouses, cluster homes, or garden apartments. In other words it is something different than the 12,000 plus singe family low residential density homes already in the planning process.

Because medium density residential consumes less land and less building materials it tends to be more affordable especially with a larger amount of connections per linear mile of sewer and water lines as well as more homes per street mile. Remember the words are “more affordable” and not “low income”.

The developer from the East Bay wants nothing to do with it because they can make a larger profit margin off larger homes on larger lots. So they want the city to convert the area zoned for medium density down to low density.

Here’s the problem, the real big problem.

First this city claims they are meeting all housing type needs with their general plan and zoning. Then when a developer comes in they change the medium density to lower density. So in essence they aren’t being all inclusive.

Second, during steady or hot economic times in Manteca — which based on the past 30 years is about 80 percent of the time — the only people who can afford to buy or even rent new  single family homes built in low density zones do not live and work in Manteca. They are essentially commuters from west of the Altamont Pass.

There is nothing wrong with that in itself. However, we have become the affordable housing option for Bay Area cities that fail to accommodate their own workers while at the same time forcing Manteca workers to look elsewhere for homes.

Of course banks that finance development and home builders contend there is no market for smaller homes on smaller lots or even cluster homes. In the case of smaller homes not having a market they are dead wrong. During 2008 to early 2009 during the deepest point of the housing market retrenching, builders estimated over 90 percent of the people who were buying the smaller homes under 1,800 square that they were building to stay afloat were Manteca residents.

There is a market. The problem is there is a larger market that can afford a return to the McMansion era.

Also, there is a reason Manteca has a $2.9 million a year deficit in needed repairs for city streets. Some of it might have to do with not taxing enough but the bigger culprit is the development pattern in Manteca since the early 1960s. Manteca, despite not being a hot bed of growth from the 1920s to 1960s, was able to keep up with street maintenance and such. The reason is simple, as the older neighborhoods in Central Manteca illustrate. Streets are narrower. There are more homes connected per linear mile of sewer and water lines.

It’s basic economics. The more customers translates into a lower cost per unit. The less street surface to maintain means a lower cost.

There are other advantages. Study after study shows narrower residential streets increase safety be slowing vehicles down and making them easier to cross. It also reduces the conversion of farmland and cuts water consumption — less lawn. And when you toss into the mix real street trees such as sycamores that grown large canopies you create more shade that reduces heat generation from streets and sidewalks and actually helps reduce the need for air conditioning to save energy.

Monte Bello Estates is more of the same. It does nothing to reduce future city costs or cut water and energy use on a grand scale. There aren’t even provisions for the obvious — drought resistant front yard landscaping.

It is lazy planning. And once you take the medium density residential out of the equation it is clearly anti-Manteca in terms of those who work here being able to live here.

It’s time to end the madness.

The Planning Commission needs to say no to the conversion of medium residential zoning because it does not comply with the general plan. By doing anything else the appointed commission is equally guilty in making the general plan the farce that it is.

As for narrower streets and drought resistant landscaping, its time elected leaders took the city back from banks that drive development loans.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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